On Tuesday of this past week, one of the most significant legal cases of our lifetime was argued before the Supreme Court. The case, Obergefell v. Hodges, asks the question, “Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” For the past several years, this question has been debated in the state legislatures and at the ballot boxes. Thirty states have had either a proposal or an amendment to their state constitutions adopted by the citizens of those states; twenty-six of those laws have been ruled unconstitutional by either state or federal courts. Several of those states are involved in the combination of cases that make up the Obergefell case. To say that this is an important case is to understate things dramatically.
During the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, some things were made clear and others became murkier. First, it is clear that this is a divided Court and the decision that comes down will probably be 5-4. The Court’s four liberals and four of the conservatives seemed settled in their positions. Second, it is clear that Justice Anthony Kennedy will again be the swing vote in this decision. Third, it is somewhat unclear how Justice Kennedy will end up voting on this case, though if I had to make a prediction based on his history in these cases, he will vote in favor of striking down the state bans on same-sex marriage (and he’ll be the one who writes the opinion of the Court). Fourth, and perhaps most important to us, such a decision will have serious implications for religious liberty in our nation; as Solicitor General of the US Donald Verilli stated, “It is going to be an issue.” Chilling words from the nation’s attorney for cases that come to the Court.
How then should we think and respond to this? First, we should realize that the Court’s decision in this case will not likely come out until the end of June. This gives us ample opportunity to pray fervently for the outcome of this case. Pray for the Justices of the Court, especially for Justice Kennedy. Pray for the Justices’ clerks, who are law students serving in the chambers of each Justice and who do most of the work in crafting the legal arguments that undergird the opinions of the Justices (and sometimes the opinions themselves!). And pray for marriage itself, that it might be restored to the place of honor and importance that it deserves. We’ve done enough damage to it ourselves. Second, several of the justices acknowledged that the concept of marriage has remained that of a man and a women for millennia, and they are right – it has been exactly that since God ordained it. What they may not realize is that despite what they decide, God’s definition will not be changed one iota. We can take comfort in this fact! Third, we must continue being salt and light in our community, speaking boldly for the truth of God, even when those opinions are incredibly unpopular in our society. Yet let us remember to speak the truth in love, because homosexuality is not an unpardonable sin and God’s grace can transform the life of a gay man or woman just as it changed yours. Just something to think about… ~Pastor Roy